Not every marina seems glad to see us – at least they don’t always act as if they are
In my journalistic capacity I probably get to visit more than the average number of marinas – each one of which leaves its own impression. And here I’m not talking about the facilities which, although variable from swanky to rundown, are nearly all adequate and can almost always be borne at a pinch. Indeed, many marinas have the sameness of franchised motels – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen... well, many.
Yet there are some issues that regularly raise ire. The ablutionary provisions for instance. Which of us has not rejoiced in the impish caprices of the marina shower block? The spiritless trickle from the shower, the demonic thermostat that alternately scalds and chills – all add their zest to the spirit of a run ashore. My own favourite is the water dispensing, and presumably energy saving time clock, set to fast forward so it catches you a country mile short of a decent rinse. All jolly good fun when you’re in the right mood and hilarious when related in the bar. But no more than a glitch in the overall scheme of things.
No, what exercise me the most are the human interactions. These can range from friendly and helpful to downright hostile.
At my recommendation, a friend of mine arranged to leave his boat for a few weeks at a yacht club marina and was treated so contemptuously by the staff that he entirely reversed his plans to seek membership. As an accomplished professional, he was unaccustomed to receiving disdain, and certainly saw no reason to pay for it when in pursuit of his own rest and recreation. His protests were received with little sympathy, so he left, never to return. For him this is an incident now well astern, but still remembered without the least pleasure.
Whatever the details, it remains unfortunate that the club’s genuinely deserved reputation for the hospitality it usually extends to visiting sailors was, on this occasion, destroyed by boorish and insensitive hired hands, each with a vaunted sense of their own importance.
It’s when you ask them for something out of the ordinary that a marina’s true colours are revealed. In my experience there are three classic responses: can do, can’t do, and could do but won’t. The first pour sunlight on any situation; the second and third are about as quenching as a winter downpour.
A good example of the first category arose a few years ago, when a set of bunk cushions were being delivered for Shindig and we were faced with getting them out to our trot mooring on the River Tamar.
Chele phoned Mayflower Marina. Would they be kind enough to receive them, so we could come alongside and collect them? ‘Be a pleasure,’ they responded. It might be for a week or so – would that be a problem? ‘None whatsoever,’ they said.
And so it was that we turned up ten days later and lay against the outer arm of the harbour just long enough to scoop them up. We paid the standard charge for our time alongside, with a contribution into the RNLI’s collection box being suggested as an appropriate reward for the considerable favour they had done us. Nice one, Mayflower, and of course our thanks.
Contrast that with another marina, which I hailed on Ch37 as we approached. ‘Take the berth by the rubbish skips I was told. ‘It’s a bit tight getting in there, so I’ll come down and take your lines.’
I warmed to his offer. What a nice place it seemed to be. We arrived uneventfully, but when we swung into the assigned slot there was no sign of berth control.
Once secured, I trotted off to find him. ‘Yeah, sorry about that,’ he said, ‘but it started to rain, and I thought better of it.’
What seems sometimes to be forgotten is that we sail for pleasure. All sailors know there will be suffering along the way – the weather alone will see to that – but that’s part of the challenge and must be endured.
What’s not endurable is the quite unnecessary aggravation that some of the support businesses can bring. If I go into a pub or restaurant and get rude or surly service I don’t go back. And neither should we to any place that treats us shabbily.
‘In my experience there are three classic responses: can do, can’t do, and could do but won’t’
Marinas... where would be without them?